Business owners often get trapped because they don’t heed the messages their business sends and they don’t pay attention to basic principles. The following checklist represents a clear set of danger signals – situations and issues – that have a negative effect on cash flow. Take a few minutes under the harsh, cold light of reality to ask yourself how many of the following danger signals exist in your business and then evaluate carefully their implications:

  • Inventory Management
  • No physical inventory taken on a regular basis
  • Lots of old inventory and no plan to get rid of it
  • Buying at trade shows without a purchasing plan
  • Buying for brand names versus targeted gross margin and turn
  • No knowledge of what actual price points sell in your store
  • Lack of a good point of sale system that shows your gross margin, turns and return on inventory by department

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· Supplier discounts rarely taken

· Offering credit as a way to boost sales (why are you a bank?)

· Buying from vendors because you can’t say no (see point 3)


Banking Relationship


· No on-going communication between you and your banker

· Credit line not completely paid off each year for at least 30 days

· Short-term credit such as credit lines used for long term assets such as store expansions or leasehold improvements


Accounting Practices


· You brag to others about how much money you save by doing your own books (hint: probably time to fire yourself from this job!)

· Bank statements not reconciled every month

· The same person who does your books also deposits your checks, pays your bills, opens your mail, never goes on vacation, etc. (hmmm, wonder what else they’re up to?)

· Balance sheet is prepared only at the end of the year, and then only used for tax purposes.

· You don’t get accurate statements (income statement and balance sheet) each month by the 15th of the following month (and you’re still waiting for your year-end statements

· You spend more time avoiding paying taxes than you do actually figuring out how your business is doing


Danger signals are just that – signals. The longer you wait, the fewer options you will have. Now is the time to gain control and keep it. Get ahead of the game, sleep better at night, and get in a much better position to weather whatever rough seas lie ahead.

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